May 28, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

American culture tends to glorify the individual at the expense of the masses. ”Wisdom” convincingly argues that under the right circumstances, it’s the crowd that’s wiser than even society’s smartest individuals. New Yorker business columnist Surowiecki enlivens his argument with dozens of illuminating anecdotes and case studies from business, social psychology, sports, and everyday life. He regards pedestrians able to navigate busy city streets as possessing ”a kind of collective genius,” while a NASA committee’s actions before the ”Columbia” shuttle disaster reflect a dysfunctional group that ”instead of making people wiser… can actually make them dumber.” Luckily, there’s no danger of dumbing down for the masses who read this singular book.

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